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Will Doo Wop Ever End? by John R. Patrick

My brother and I and our wives went to a great concert last week at the Ridgefield Playhouse. Felix Cavaliere led the Rascals musicians. Originally The Young Rascals were a truly groundbreaking band who helped to define the sound of 1960s rock and soul music. Some of the most famous hits were “Good Lovin'”, “Groovin'”, “A Beautiful Morning”, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore”, “You Better Run”, “People Got to Be Free”, “How Can I Be Sure”, and “Come On Up”.1

Felix Cavaliere is an American musician and singer-songwriter. He is best known for being the lead vocalist and keyboard player. The other members of the Rascals were Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli, and Gene Cornish. Only Felix and Gene, the only two originals, were on stage. Cavaliere sang vocals on their many successful singles, but he is also well-known for playing his Hammond B-3 organ, which he had with him on the stage. Felix will turn 81 in November, and he is going strong. His dedication reminds me of how I felt after Doo Wop concerts I have attended over the years. I wrote the following story in 2011.

Most of the articles I have written about music are about classical music, but the night at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts more than ten years ago was a different kind of “classical” music. The NY Doo Wop Extravaganza featured The Mystics (“Hushabye”), The Passions (“Just to Be with You”), The Classics (“Till Then”), Buddy Holly’s Crickets (“Peggy Sue”), Charlie Thomas & The Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk”), Kenny Vance & The Planotones (“Looking for An Echo”), The Chantels (“Maybe”), and The Fireflies (“You Were Mine”).

The Doo Wop spectacular featured these and many more classics of the 50s & 60s. It was a real trip down memory lane. The Origins of Doo Wop are debated but most would agree it evolved from a merging of pop, gospel, blues, jazz, and swing elements in the late 1940’s and early 50’s. Some call it vocal group harmonizing at its best. It would be hard to disagree that Doo Wop music is innocent, joyous, romantic, and almost spiritual.

Watching these performing groups on stage is always inspiring. A little arithmetic from the fifties to now can quickly show most of the performers were well past 60. Charlie Thomas was 74 in April 2011, Kenny Vance would be 68 that December.2 Some looked their age, some did not. All of them had great voices and rhythm. If you look at their concert schedules on the websites, you can see they are performing almost constantly. One group claimed 208 concerts last year.

Why do they keep doing this? Why don’t they stop and retire? It is possible some lived past their means or did not invest in their future during the hay days and now need the money. Others may do it out of loyalty to other members of their group.3 Some may not know what else to do. Most however, are probably doing it because they love it. You could see the sparkle in their eyes and the spring in their step. As the audience raved, the performers were inspired, and the cycle continued. It was a great night and a nice motorcycle trike ride to arrive back at the lake house that midnight.

A 2023 Reflection

Doo Wop is a genre of rhythm and blues music which originated among African American youth in the 1940s, mainly in the large cities of the United States, including New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Detroit, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. Fast forward a decade from my original article and you will find Doo Wop still alive and well. As of June 27, 2023, StubHub, a leading marketplace for fans to buy and sell concert tickets, lists 86 Doo Wop concerts available for ticket purchase. The concerts are across America and the United Kingdom.

I think it is great Doo Wop is alive and well, but I wonder how long it will last. Music of the 1930s and 1940s is still available on YouTube, but there are not as many live concerts as there are for Doo Wop. Perhaps young musicians will step in and keep Doo Wop alive. Mozart has been gone for more than 230 years but his music lives on, and child prodigies continue to be born. Perhaps new Doo Wop stars will be born to keep the music alive, performing the music of the 50s and writing new Doo Wop compositions preserving the fine attributes the music has passed along.


1 Thanks to Bard AI for remembering and listing the top hits. Then I asked Bard to put the hits in quotes, which it did instantly. I then asked to have them in a single sentence separated by commas. AI is a productivity booster and a nice companion to have at my fingertips.

2 Kenny Vance will be 80 in December. Charlie Thomas died this past January at 85.

3 On this past Saturday night, Gene Cornish needed stage hands to help him to get on and off the stage. His guitar strumming was anemic, but he was there.